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Child burials and children’s status in medieval Norway

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Chapter Summary

The island of Selja was an important religious centre in the early Christian era in Norway. During the archaeological investigations in the monastic church ruins in 1990 and 1991, many graves were uncovered. Rules for emergency baptism are given in the ecclesiastical sections of the early medieval Norwegian provincial laws: normally a priest should baptise the child, but lay people - preferably men - could perform the baptismal rites in emergencies. Archaeological investigations of burial customs and osteoarchaeological investigations of skeletal remains complement the information in written sources, and suggest that if indeed childhood per se may have been of small importance in medieval Norwegian society, this does not mean that the child itself was unimportant. A burial in the Middle Ages was regulated both by unwritten principles and written rules and regulations. Ideally, the burial customs were uniform for all.

Keywords: baptism; child burials; medieval Norwegian society; selja



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